As Threats Evolve, Data Protection Is Paramount

Today’s cybersecurity landscape poses one of the most significant risks to data. This holds true for organizations of all sizes, across all industries, tasked with protecting their most essential data amid an increasingly regulated environment and faster, more innovative adversaries.

Recent years have introduced a steady drumbeat of new data privacy regulations. There are now 14 U.S. states that have passed privacy laws. In July , the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) adopted new rules requiring organizations to disclose material cybersecurity incidents, as well as information regarding their risk management, strategy and governance. On a global level, dozens of countries have updated their guidance on data privacy.  

Organizations must now comply with an “alphabet soup” of data protection requirements including GDPR, CCPA, APPI, PDPA and LGPD. Some of these are evolving to incentivize the adoption of stronger security practices. Newly updated regulations in Brazil, for example, give breached organizations a fine reduction of up to 75% if they have state-of-the-art protection in place at the time of a cyberattack. 

The list is growing: In 2024, many organizations will face new requirements stemming from the SEC’s new rules and state privacy laws, including amendments to the CCPA, industry-specific mandates, and those imposed on critical infrastructure by the Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act (CIRCIA). These developments include new incident reporting obligations and requirements to implement certain security technologies, as well as demonstrate compliance through cybersecurity audits, risk assessments, public disclosures and other measures. 

These myriad legal requirements broadly raise the bar for “reasonable” security. However, adversaries typically move faster than data protection mandates can keep up. Organizations must pay close attention to how adversaries are evolving their techniques and determine whether they’re prepared to defend their data against modern threats.

Data Extortion and the Defender’s Dilemma 

The emergence of new regulations has been a game-changer for adversaries and defenders alike. Protecting against data breaches has only grown more challenging as threat actors evolve their tradecraft and quickly learn the pressure these regulations put on breached organizations.

Today’s adversaries are working smarter, not harder. This is clear in the growth of data extortion, which has emerged in recent years as an easier, less risky means for adversaries to profit. Threat actors are shifting away from noisy ransomware campaigns, which typically trigger alarm bells in security tools — instead, they are quietly stealing victims’ data and then threatening to leak it if their financial demands aren’t met. 

The rise in data extortion has corresponded with adversaries increasingly targeting identities, a critical threat vector organizations must consider as they build their data protection plans.  Rather than relying on malware-laced phishing emails to breach target organizations, they can use a set of compromised credentials to simply log in. A growing number of access broker advertisements enables the sale of credentials, vulnerability exploits and other forms of illicit access: Last year, CrowdStrike reported a 147% increase in access broker ads on the dark web. Adversaries can now more stealthily infiltrate organizations, take valuable data and demand their price, putting victims in a tough position.

Data protection regulations change the calculus for organizations hit with data extortion — and adversaries know it. When threat actors steal information and tell their victims they’re in violation of HIPAA, GDPR, CCPA or other regulations, the stakes are higher. They know exactly how much an extortion attack will cost a business once it’s disclosed to regulators, and they can use this to coerce organizations into paying them instead. This may be a false choice, as many disclosure requirements apply regardless, but the coercion is real.

There are other ways adversaries use regulation consciousness to their advantage. In one case, a ransomware gang filed an SEC whistleblower complaint directed at one of its victims. The complaint, filed before the new SEC rules actually went into effect, attempted to claim that the victim was in violation of its duty to disclose a material cyber incident. 

Organizations must be incentivized to protect their data from modern threats. They should not feel stuck between the fear of reporting a breach and the pressure to meet adversaries’ ransom demands. With the right safeguards in place, businesses can protect their data from adversaries’ evolving attempts to access it. This is where CrowdStrike comes in. 

How CrowdStrike Can Help 

As we recognize Data Protection Day 2024, it is essential we consider what data protection involves and how critical cybersecurity is — not only for compliance, but for protecting privacy. Organizations must adopt best practices to protect their data in addition to achieving compliance requirements. 

Visibility is essential to maintain regulatory compliance and protect sensitive data from today’s adversaries. If you don’t have visibility into your data flows, your credentials or the sensitive data your organization holds, how can you know whether that data is at risk? 

An organization’s data is among its most valuable assets — and adversaries are after it. Protecting that data should be a top priority. CrowdStrike Falcon® Data Protection provides deep, real-time visibility into what’s happening with your sensitive data as it flows across endpoints, cloud, web browsers and SaaS applications. As the modern approach to data protection, our technology ensures compliance with minimal configuration and provides comprehensive protection against modern threats. 

It is more important than ever for organizations to understand data protection and data security are interdependent and cannot be considered in isolation. Both are critical in protecting privacy. Moreover, if personal data is stolen in a cyberattack, those affected can claim damages — but certain jurisdictions provide fine and liability mitigations where the breached organization can prove its cybersecurity protections were reasonable and state-of-the-art.

In this threat landscape and regulatory environment, Data Protection Day provides an opportunity for privacy and security teams to align on modern threats to privacy, risks of non-compliance and the best technical and organizational means to protect data.

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